Michael Crichton/John Lange
Hard Case Crime
October 29, 2013
Reviewed by Brian James Lewis

Hello my friends, and welcome to the Skullcave! Today we’re talking about the Hard Case Crime edition of Michael Crichton’s 1972 suspense novel BINARY. Back then Crichton was writing under the pen name John Lange and in a style that was contemporary for the times. Readers will need to keep that in mind, especially younger ones who’ve never experienced life without a cellphone in their pocket. In 1972, police used walkie-talkies, landline telephones which could be hacked quite easily, car radios, and did a lot of legwork to keep tabs on criminals. Computers were new and awkward to use technology that wasn’t available to the general public. So, get your plaid bell bottom slacks, wide collar shirt, and Dingo boots on. Now let’s roll!

Binary starts off by giving readers a peek into an unusual crime involving a special shipment via rail. The heist is pulled off successfully, but why the interest in two large tanks of pesticide? Some answers arrive with one John Graves, when he arrives in San Diego, California after a long flight. As a government intelligence agent, Graves has become an expert on the eccentric, dangerous, and very rich John Wright. It turns out that they have an emergency on their hands. Not only is John Wright in San Diego but so is the president of the United States. They are both there for a political convention, but with very different agendas. The president is seeking reelection while Wright is looking to correct a lot of things he perceives as wrongs. It is up to Graves and a mashup of law enforcement agencies including the US Marshalls, and local police to stop Wright from achieving his goals. Otherwise, a million people will die horrible deaths. But there is nothing simple about this job. Wright may be twisted, but he’s also genius level smart and loves puzzles. Can Graves figure out his deadly game before it’s too late?

Your old pal Skull enjoyed this fast-moving novel, but there were a few things that just didn’t fly: How many “Johns” do we need in one book? We know that John Lange was pseudonym for Crichton, but then he goes on to name both of his lead characters John, too? The world is full of perfectly good names that would have also worked and been less confusing. I mean I am a Michael Crichton fan, but sometimes things just get a bit too detailed. At the same time, this is also one of his strengths because readers aren’t stuck with a vague concept, they get the complete picture. Another thing I liked about Binary was the absence of gun violence for the most part. John Graves is seeking a solution with the least amount of physical harm being done. After enduring a ton of bombastic novels and movies where every single thing gets blown to hell, it’s cool to see that reason and deduction are still valued. Violence is too prevalent and highly lauded today. We need to start stepping back from that testosterone-fueled approach both in fiction and real life. Overall, Damaged Skull Writer and Reviewer rates Binary by Michael Crichton writing as John Lange a hearty FOUR STARS! Incidentally, I’ve enjoyed almost every Hard Case Crime release with their vintage art covers and plethora of authors, some of whom I was pleasantly surprised by. I’m glad they brought these novels by Michael Crichton back into the public eye, especially since we won’t be getting any new releases from this talented author who was gone too soon. Check ‘em out!

For more information about more Hard Case Crime titles by John Lange and others go to: www.HardCaseCrime.com Also be sure to follow me, your old pal Skull at: www.damagedskullwriterandreviewer.com It’s a great way to find out about independent speculative fiction, poetry, and some unique books by mainstream authors. Thanks for stopping by the Skullcave, see you soon!

Damaged Skull Writer and Reviewer is an inclusive blog where everyone is valued, except for haters who are heartily encouraged to climb into the nearest industrial trash compactor and press start. My human host, Brian James Lewis is a disabled poet and writer with PTSD who has 3 new Beat Generation style poems in Trajectory Journal issue 23, available now! As is issue 22 which contains his terrifying short story Following My Destiny about misguided mass shooter Chance McCandless. If you want to sample Brian’s work for free, check out the Halloween 2023 issue of The Sirens Call E-zine for his short story “Still A Great Night To Be A Kid.” You can also read his poem “Again” which is about living with mental illness, on JMWW. We’re also on Twitter @skullsnflames76 and Goodreads under his name.

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